McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Several of the Republican presidential hopefuls who took part in the first GOP debate on Wednesday night said they would prioritize sending more troops and resources to the southern border over Ukraine, or for other federal agencies like the IRS.

“I’m not going to send troops to Ukraine, but I am going to send them to our southern border,” said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the front-runner of the eight on the GOP debate stage in Milwaukee on Wednesday night. “The cartels are killing tens of thousands of our fellow citizens. We have to re-establish the rule of law and we have to defend our people … We’re going to use force and we’re going to leave them stone-cold dead,” he said about the Mexican drug cartels.

“Secure our own border instead of somebody else’s,” entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy said. “Protect our own borders. Protect the homeland.”

During the two-hour debate – hosted by FOX News – about 15 minutes was spent debating how the candidates would beef up security on the southern border to prevent drugs like fentanyl from coming into the United States.

Most also mentioned the importance of securing the border in their closing statements.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, of South Carolina, said he would rather spend the money that was recently allocated in the Biden administration to fund 87,000 new IRS agents on border law enforcement.

If elected, Scott said he would finish building the border wall. He estimated that would cost $10 billion to complete construction, and $5 billion more to equip the wall with technology to virtually protect the entire Southwest border.

“As the next president of the United States, I will make that border wall complete,” Scott said.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said “lethal force would be needed to protect the border.”

A group of migrants enter a gap in the concertina wire along the border in Eagle Pass, Texas, on Aug. 21, 2023. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

Hutchinson added that economic pressures would need to be put on Mexico and said Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador “has not been helpful.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence took credit for negotiating the remain-in-Mexico policy with Mexico during the Trump administration. The policy, formally called Migrant Protections Protocol, forced thousands of asylum seekers to wait south of the border for the immigration proceedings during the previous Republican-led administration.

The policy was lifted when Joe Biden took office, but now Title 8 is in effect, which requires all asylum-seekers to make appointments for asylum interviews at U.S. ports via the CBP One app, and to claim asylum in the countries they first come to before arriving at the U.S. border. If they cross in between legal ports of entry they face being sent back to Mexico and unable to try to re-enter for five years.

“We need to stop any more from coming,” former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said. “We have to make sure that people who come here illegally are not rewarded.”

Christie then said that those who are in the country illegally “have to have them detained.”

He also said China should be stopped from sending precursor chemicals to Mexico that are used in fentanyl.

Most of the evening was spent on economic issues and most said the U.S. economy is suffering because of China.

Other issues that were discussed included abortion, crime in America, education, and threats from Russia.

The next GOP debate is scheduled for Sept. 27 in Simi Valley, California, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at